"So, when are you going to make me a little playmate?” a shrill voice asked, impersonating my then-infant son at a family gathering. I couldn't decide which was more annoying: this clearly grown woman, who I didn't know very well despite being a legal family member, doing an awful baby voice, or asking me about having more babies while holding my current baby. I hadn't expected to hear that question so soon, or else I would have started preparing my clapbacks to an in-law harassing me about making another baby a lot earlier.
Whether it's an actual in-law or anyone else, really, it can be really obnoxious to have people all up in your business when it comes to something as personal as family planning. For many folks, one child is plenty, and they're sick of people acting like there's something wrong with their family because they only have one child.
Then there's the logistics of the question, for those who may be interested in having more children. In most cases, making new people involves unprotected sex, leading to pregnancy and hopefully childbirth. At what other point in life would it be considered in-bounds to randomly ask other people how much unprotected sex they're having with their partner? Like, what?
For folks who can't or don't want to have kids "the old fashioned way," there's a ton of other stuff involved — finding sperm donors and arranging for insemination, or fertility specialists and procedures which may or may not be successful, or all the interviews, background checks, inspections, applications, waiting, possible rejections and more involved with fostering or adopting children. All of that can be stressful. All of it's personal. In other words, it's not the kind of stuff everybody feels like talking about with any old anybody who asks.
If you're about to head into a family gathering where busybodies might be present, don't get caught off guard like I was. Arm yourself with comebacks now, or just try out the following (hopefully with a cup of tea in hand).
“No News On This Front, But How Are Your [Uterus/Ovaries/Testicles] Doing?”
Sometimes people need to be reminded of what it is they're actually asking you when they ask you about your plans for future children. For most people, this is a question about your reproductive organs. Responding in kind is a perfect reminder that no, it's not actually appropriate to talk to people about their reproductive organs in casual conversation.
“You Realize You're Asking Me Kinda Personal Questions About My Sex Life With Your Family Member, Right?”
Adults who start sniffing around about who’s expanding their family occasionally need to be reminded where babies come from.
“Is My Personal Business Really That Much More Important To You Than Yours?”
If they were a supportive confidant, they'd already be someone you'd open up to about your family planning. But people who proactively put you on the spot to explain that kind of stuff to them tend not to be the “supportive confidant” type, so much as the gossipy, busybody type. Redirecting them to their own business is a good way to make sure your business doesn't come up in their next conversation with someone else.
“We’re Deliberately Being Opaque About This Because We Love Your Intrusive Questions”
Sarcasm: making tedious conversations with people who don't get it tolerable since, well, the advent of human conversation.
“When Am I Giving You Another [Niece/Nephew/Grandchild]? When They Go On Sale At Costco”
The “when are you giving me a [new family member]?” is the absolute worst version of this kind of questioning. Not only does the questioner make it totally clear that this conversation is all about them, they also totally minimize the effort involved in expanding your family.
So sure, if they want you to give them a new baby so bad, then you will: as soon as pregnancy and childbirth, or fertility treatments plus pregnancy and childbirth, or successfully adopting a child, becomes as easy as their question makes it out to be.
“I Don't Know, But When Are You [Insert Ridiculously Personal Thing Here]?”
Raise the cost of asking annoying, intrusive questions by responding with a few of your own. That might make them think twice before pestering you again.
“When Am I Having Another Baby? When Are You Paying My Bills?”
Welcome to real life, Annoying Questioner, where not only are babies not delivered by storks, but the money required to feed, clothe, house, and otherwise raise said children does not grow on trees.
“...When Are You Negotiating For Better Parental Leave? Or Free Daycare? Or Free College?”
For a lot of people, having a new baby means having to figure out whether to quit their job and find a new one just so they can have enough time to recover and/or bond with a new child, kicking off the beginning of a lifetime of other financial and other sacrifices. Unless this person is in a position to guarantee paid parental leave and much more to everyone every time they welcome a new child to their family, they should probably keep their questions to themselves.
“Could You Maybe Not Suggest My Family/Child Aren't Enough, Just As We Are?”
For many possible reasons, some folks are quite certain that they are “one and done” when it comes to kids, and that's totally OK. What's not OK is asking a question that sends the message that their family as it is, is incomplete or insufficient somehow, especially if their child is within earshot.
In all other circumstances, responding to this kind of question is fairly optional. But if the only child in question hears them saying this, it’s pretty much mandatory that they hear their parents affirming that they are quite enough.
Sometimes, silence is the best response. Just stare and blink deliberately while they tie themselves up in uncomfortable conversational knots. Saying nothing can say — and teach — so much.